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June 17, 2018

Sixers rumor round up: Kawhi Leonard on radar, trade to top 5 possible (likely?)

Brett Brown certainly has his hands full.

The Sixers' acting GM (and full-time head coach) has less than a week to formulate his plan — a plan on how to utilize six draft picks and millions in cap space to set his team up for even more success in 2018-19.

The rumors have been flying as the 2018 NBA Draft approaches this Thursday night and after seeing the Sixers make a blockbuster move last year to grab the first overall pick from Boston it almost seems routine to have Philly making deals leading up to a draft. 

Here's a brief look at the most prevalent rumors involving the Sixers we've seen:

Movin' on up (again?)

The source for this rumor is interesting — former Cavaliers GM and supposed Sixers GM candidate David Griffin. On Sirius XM radio the other day that the Sixers are "very much looking to move up to get somebody they think will go in the top five." 

First of all, how would he know? It stands to reason a former GM might have connections throughout the league, but if he is in contact with the Sixers about the job opening, leaking insight into their draft room may not be a smart move for a candidate for a job with a team struggling in the aftermath of quite the leak-related scandal.

Second of all, who is this top five prospect they so prize? Of the likely top five or six picks two (Deandre Ayton and Mohammad Bomba) are centers. We can probably assume they aren't the targets. Which leaves Luka Doncic, Marvin Bagley III, Jaren Jackson Jr. and potentially Michael Porter Jr. as the possible prospects the Sixers are focused on.

The Sixers have the firepower to move up, with several desirable players on rookie contracts — like Dario Saric (or perhaps Markelle Fultz) — as well as the 10th and 26th overall picks plus four second rounders. But if they use those assets to move up in the draft it means our second rumor becomes moot.

Can they get Kawhi?

As our Kyle Neubeck broke down, Philly would be smart to give a trade for Spurs star forward Kawhi Leonard its due diligence. 

According to sources, Leonard wants out of San Antonio and calls have been made from prospective new teams. As expected, the usual suspects are on the case in the Sixers, the Celtics and the Lakers. L.A. has the best odds, according to Bovada, with the Celtics second and the Sixers and Spurs tied for third.

There are of course hesitations — Leonard's recent injury issues and his vanishing from the team, as well as his soon to expire contract at the end of next season can be red flags. It would then make sense that a team trading for his services would want assurances or even a contract extension in place. But the simple fact that Leonard is known to be unhappy where he is gives any team negotiating a leg up.

Is Lebron still in play?

There's really no telling what is going on in LeBron James' head — he's got a few weeks left until free agency starts and his decision becomes more highly anticipated. But the Sixers remain among the teams thought to be on top of his list.

As Sixers' fans no doubt already know, from the prophet Joel Embiid, "The Process will never end." But that doesn't keep NBA pundits from pontificating on how it could change things in Philadelphia to land the eight-time NBA Finals participant. Sports Illustrated is treating James to Philly as a likelihood, pondering in a podcast if his arrival would complete The Process.

For what it's worth, Dwight Howard went on ESPN last week and said he doesn't see it happening. But Vegas oddsmakers continue to put James and Philly as highly probably partners, along with the Rockets, Lakers and staying in Cleveland.

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